Publication date: May 3rd 2016
My rating: 4.5 stars
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
From the legendary New York Times bestselling author of Only a Kiss and Only a Promise comes the final book in the rapturous Survivor’s Club series—as the future of one man lies within the heart of a lost but never-forgotten love...
For the first time since the death of his wife, the Duke of Stanbrook is considering remarrying and finally embracing happiness for himself. With that thought comes the treasured image of a woman he met briefly a year ago and never saw again.
Dora Debbins relinquished all hope to marry when a family scandal left her in charge of her younger sister. Earning a modest living as a music teacher, she’s left with only an unfulfilled dream. Then one afternoon, an unexpected visitor makes it come true.
For both George and Dora that brief first encounter was as fleeting as it was unforgettable. Now is the time for a second chance. And while even true love comes with a risk, who are two dreamers to argue with destiny?
Mary Balogh’s historical romance series has been lovely. The past characters have come through the Napoleonic Wars with physical, mental, and emotional scars, but survived and triumphed with the help of the fellow Survivors’ Club members. These members met and recuperated at Penderris Hall, and its owner George Crabbe, the Duke of Stanbrook, helped each of them.
Forty-eight year old George didn’t fight in the war, but his son was killed and soon after his wife threw herself off a cliff because she was so overcome with grief that she didn’t want to live. Twelve years later, George is at a point in his life where he doesn’t want to be alone anymore. The idea of marriage and companionship is something he can’t stop thinking about, but only with one woman in his mind: Dora Debbins. George met Dora while at one of the Survivors’ Clubs yearly gatherings and was taken with her understated beauty, “serene dignity”, and amazing musical talent. And so George goes to propose a marriage of contentment, companionship, and physical relations, but without the offer of romantic or passionate love. George felt like he was past the age to offer that kind of fanciful romance, but of course, I was hoping he’d be proved wrong! Why should age exclude someone from that kind of love?
Thirty-nine year-old Dora is considered a spinster and has given up any hope of marriage at this point. However, she doesn’t regret putting her life on hold to care for her younger sister when their mother left while Dora was just seventeen and Agnes was five. Plus, Dora has a fulfilling life as a music teacher, something Dora loves to do and makes a decent living at. Even if she is lonely at times, Dora still leads a mostly content and happy life. But when George arrives and proposes, her stomach turns to butterflies, because she can hardly believe she’d have a chance to experience the joys of marriage, physical and emotional closeness, and with a Duke, no less! With George’s offer on the table Dora can now admit that she was impressed and infatuated with him when she met him all those months ago. And it feels like her life has turned into a fairytale.
Dora quickly realizes that while George is an excellent and compassionate listener, deriving happiness from helping others work through their past pain, he is very tight-lipped about his own demons. Dora wonders if he’ll ever open up to her and allow her completely in or will she have to accept that her husband will always keep a portion of himself closed to her?
This romance was very touching, and it was gratifying to see Dora get her happily-ever-after after putting her life on hold, and giving up on the idea of marriage. George and Dora gave so much of themselves to help others, so I wanted nothing but happiness and love for them. This story was very much about how the past shapes us, and George was very instrumental in helping Dora reconcile with the past and move away from some of the hurt. George just needed a little more time accepting reciprocal help. I appreciated the patience and understanding Dora showed, not pushing too hard, but showing her willingness to accept whatever George told her without judgment.
Ms. Balogh skillfully creates multi-layered characters with an insightful look into what makes them tick. I loved the gradual increase of respect, affection and love between George and Dora. I loved that it was a mature romance with older characters (yes, there is life after forty, thank you so much!). And as icing on the cake, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending and epilogue/update on the past characters in the series. It was so very heartwarming to see how far everyone has come and their continued happiness in the future. With that said, Only Beloved can easily be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone. The entire series is wonderful, and I think it would be a winner for any historical romance fan.
Connect with Mary Balogh:
The lovely people at Signet graciously provided a Paperback Copy of Only Beloved to one Readers Den Follower. The giveaway is open to US and CA residents only. Fill out the rafflecopter for a chance to win.